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Written by internationally acclaimed Tom Ratcliffe and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair MBE,
Wreckage runs at The King’s Head Theatre, London from the 2 – 7 July.

Wreckage is a one-act original drama about love and loss, telling the beautiful story of Sam and his fiancé Noel. Together they have a house, a cat, and their entire lives ahead of them. But when a sudden and permanent distance disrupts their relationship, Sam is left to figure out where their story goes from here.

Tom Ratcliffe was interviewed about Wreckage for QX magazine. In the interview he explores the play, its significance and why the audience connects.

For the uninitiated, please explain the story/synopsis of Wreckage to our readers. 

Wreckage is set in the mind of Sam and we enter the story at the moment Sam tragically loses his partner Noel in a car accident. 

The play is a navigation of Sam’s grieving mind as he continues his relationship with Noel after death. It is also a story of how he tries to marry his memories and love for Noel with his present life as he moves forward.

Wreckage is ultimately an exploration of how our love for someone stays with us for the rest of our lives.

Picture of Tom Ratcliffe writer of queer play Wreckage
Tom Ratcliffe

When did you decide to write Wreckage? 

So, there are actually two answers to this question! In January 2021, Harlow Playhouse commissioned me to write an entirely different play. 

The pitch that Harlow commissioned was for a two hander which was more plot driven with themes of grief. However, when I set about writing I have an intense research period which usually informs the plot. In this case, the research period changed the entire idea! I just realised that I was shying away from a play about grief that I always wanted to write. It took focused time delving into wonderful books like Joan Didion’s ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ for me to admit this.

Luckily, Rory (Harlow’s Artistic Director) was very supportive of the change in direction. It would have been pretty awkward if not!

Who is the show for? 

The show focuses specifically on Sam and Noel’s relationship, so when the story follows a gay couple immediately, this is a love story that the LGBTQ+ community will relate to – especially as it explores some of the disenfranchisements that come with losing a same-sex partner. 

That said, it was wholeheartedly my intention to write a story about loss which happens to centre two gay characters rather than identity being a core theme of the story. Therefore, this play is unique in that it has a far-reaching universality – loss. Ultimately, if you have loved and lost someone, this is a play that you are going to get something from. The play, whilst emotional, truly is the ultimate celebration of what it means to love someone, so there is a lot of joy, fun and butterflies as well as a bulk supply of Kleenex.

“One of the most honest explorations of grief I’ve witnessed”

Lost in Theatreland

Did you always intend to perform in the play yourself? 

The unashamedly short answer to this is absolutely. I was pitching these ideas at the back end of 2020 and I was sure to be pitching ideas that I knew I could write a part for myself in. It was important for me to get back on stage because that was a time when acting work was really hard to come by. 

I also am a big believer in making your own work as an artist which has been pretty much the backbone of my short career to date. I say short, it’s been 10 years now. Pinch me.

Performing an extremely emotional and at times traumatic play over a run of shows must be emotionally draining, do you have any pre-show rituals, and how do you decompress afterwards? 

I think all actors work differently. I speak with Rikki (our wonderful director) about this a lot, and we are quite similar in that we like to channel our own emotions through our work as artists. Sam goes on such an epic journey, and the play starts incredibly traumatically for him. However by the time you get to the end, Sam’s been through every emotion there is to go through so there is a genuine sense of catharsis in that as a performer. Let it all out, and then get a good night’s sleep!

That said I absolutely have a pre show routine and warm up which I find comfort in. I think I find comfort in little routines in my life more generally as well. I think it’s because we work in a career where so often everything feels out of your control, so if there are little parts of my day I can absolutely control then I do find comfort in that. At least my daily coffee is a certainty (and if it’s not god help you)!

When did you realise that Wreckage was connecting with People? 

It’s funny because, although this is a play that deals with grief, I would hands down say that Wreckage is by far my most hopeful play. Hope and my plays do not usually belong in the same sentence. So before people saw it, I was genuinely quite concerned that the play was too sentimental or simple in its final message.

I quickly realised audiences definitely didn’t feel this from the early stages of previewing the show. The reactions were really raw and many people would speak to myself and the team about how much they related to the material. That made me really proud. It’s those encounters that remind us that the work isn’t about us or for us (as creators); it’s for the audience. Affecting change in them is far more important than any accolades or acclaim that may come with creating work.

Wreckage discount code
Click image to visit book at King’s Head Theatre with Discount Code WRECK15

Do you think Wreckage has comparators to any other play/film/TV show? 

Good question! Well since Wreckage premiered in 2022 there have been quite a few queer grief stories on the silver screen or Netflix. Of course there is Good Grief with Dan Levy on Netflix, and also All of us Strangers.

However, stories that I love and helped inspire Wreckage are: ‘Be Right Back’ from Black Mirror (S2), Dead to Me (Netflix) and Lilting (with Ben Whishaw).

What’s next for Wreckage? What’s next for you?

Well, the 2023 German production of Wreckage at the Theater das Zimmer is currently on the shortlist for the Theaterpreis Hamburg 2024 which is very exciting. There is also a second German production of the play to come at Theater Bielefeld in 2025.

For me, I have a couple of projects that I am working on at the moment which I am excited about. Watch this space!

Get 15% OFF with QX Discount Code WRECK15

Wreckage runs from 2 – 7 July 2024 at King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper St, London N1 1QN

QX interview with internationally acclaimed writer Tom Ratcliffe about his play Wreckage
QX interview with internationally acclaimed writer Tom Ratcliffe about his play Wreckage
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